Social Media Use by Businesses Hits a Slow Patch

The Univeristy of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's Center for Marketing Research finds that fewer large companies are maintaing blogs; rather, they are focusing on other social media tools. The money summary:

Of those tools and platforms studied last year, there is clearly a shift in how these nimble companies are communicating. Fewer of them are using blogging, message/bulletin boards, online video, podcasting and MySpace. More companies are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, downloadable mobile apps, texting and Foursquare.

This trend is not surprising. Social media as a strategy should not follow an undifferentiated marketing approach. All firms will not find a benefit from all forms of social media. Furthermore, there is an art to blogging that requires someone who can provide compelling content that drives commentary.

Finally, firms could be disappointed with social media outcomes because of a mismatch of goals. As the report notes:

Social media tools are seen as important for company goals. ...Eighty-eight percent see these tools as important for generating web traffic while 81% find them important for lead generation (emphasis added)...

The focus on lead generation explains the increase emphasis on LinkedIn, Twitter, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. However, this represents a bad use of those social media tools.

Social media is becoming a necessary tool for sales representatives and retail managers because these tools provide the user with a means to extend the relationship beyond the sale. Also, through social media use, a sales representative or retail manager can establish themselves as a knowledge manager, or a disseminator of information that is not found elsewhere.

Besides communicating with customers, social media tools allow a sales representative or retail manager to maintain relationships with suppliers, competitors, and colleagues.

While the misuse or misapplication of social media could be one reason the slowing or shifting adoption patterns, Tammy Erickson offers a different explanation. Users appear eager to embrace social media tools for personnel benefit but reluctant to adopt social media tools for employment benefit.

Most of her reasons reflect arguments of role autonomy, perceived ease of use, extrinsic motivation, and apathetic motivation. The research on technology use would support her listed reasons as well as recommendations. She concludes:

Your competition will shift the playing field in your industry by integrating this technology into how work gets done if you don't. This train is leaving the station.

By changing the strategic goal along with addressing the necessary tactics to achieve these newfound goals, your organization can retain current customers while adding new customers.